In a scenario characterized by the globalization of the markets, the competitiveness of firms across the industries and mainly in the agri-food sector is linked to their capability to make distinguishable their products and communicate their uniqueness. Branding can concretely answer to these needs allowing firms to compete by communicating the quality and all that set of factors that differentiate their own offer by the competitors. Anyway, brand management in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is a field of study in its infancy, and one in which real interest was shown only during the final decade of the previous century. Although considerable literature has been published about brand management in general, all theory and case studies are focused only on multinationals and big companies operating in the food sectors, such as Coca Cola, Unilever, Procter & Gamble. This is however ignoring the fact that more than 95% of businesses in the European Union are small and medium enterprises (Eurostat 2004) and that this composition, confirmed in the agrifood sectors, contribute to make the European market extremely interesting and profitable. The objective of this paper aims to contribute to already existing research in the field and shows the role and importance of brand management in food SMEs and all the key factors that supports it. Our analysis will highlight as the term brand in agri-food SMEs is initiated and supported by an active role of the entrepreneur who is a fundamental actor in the achievement of brand recognition. Thus, directors and managers of small food companies should place brand management in a top position in their daily mind set, since achieving brand recognition starts inside the organization itself. Beside, the paper describes the real opportunity offered by new technologies (web, internet, B2B…) that allows small food companies to build their brand in a more effective way and reach a larger market in a low cost. To meet these objectives a qualitative research methodology was carried based on case studies, since this latter allows to understand more in detail firm’s behaviours and strategies. The food small and medium enterprises that were selected are located in the South of Italy and all of them have a web-site. These case studies were built based on structured questionnaires that have been firstly sent by mail, and was followed by face to face interviews with entrepreneurs and director of sales and marketing department. The results obtained are extremely interesting and representative of the importance of brand management both for food SMEs, as key element to innovate, grow and to be distinguished as well as for the entrepreneur in building, through the use of new technologies, a successful brand management strategy of his own company.


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